THE VILLAGES, Fla. — Camp Villages is back after a hiatus in 2020. The program serves up nine weeks of activities for grandparents and their grandchildren.

What You Need To Know

  • Camp Villages took a year off because of the COVID pandemic

  • Grandparents, grandchildren get together for a variety of activities

  • Participants can choose from sports, arts and crafts and educational events

  • The social activity improves mental and physical health, experts say

Eva and Sara kick off summer at The Villages, spending time with their Gran.

“I was ecstatic. I was really excited I was going to get to come back and do Camp Villages again,” said Eva Pellegrino, Karen Barker’s granddaughter. “It’s one of my favorite parts of the summer.”

Barker agrees.

“I absolutely love it,” Barker said. “The kids have fun. We have fun.” 

The girls traveled from Delaware, something they weren’t able to do for the past year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was kind of upsetting that I wasn’t able to come, but I completely understand and wanted it to be as safe as possible,” Pellegrino said.

“I missed them tremendously,” Barker added. 

According to licensed mental health counselor Shantala Boss, the impact of the pandemic affected seniors more than anyone else. 

“Statistically, 43% of the geriatric population is reporting that they're feeling increased loneliness due to the pandemic,” Boss said.

That statistic is concerning, for a number of reasons, including depression, Boss said. 

“It could lead to some really problematic things,” Boss said. “It could lead to health problems. It could lead to problems in social functioning in the future.”

Karen lives with her sister and she says that helped a great deal last year. 

“Otherwise I would have been completely alone, and so would she,” Barker said. “We could sit out on our lanai, and we took on puzzles and projects just like everybody else probably in America. So we made the best of it.” 

But there’s nothing better than being able to reap the benefits of being with her grandchildren again. 

“To be able to hold their grandchildren, I mean, that decreases blood pressure, it increases positive oxytocin, and it can help prolong their life,” Boss said. “It can help them become more active.” 

“Time goes by fast, but I’m trying to be there for every minute that I can,” Barker said. 

Camp Villages has activities for grandchildren from 3 to 16 years old, ranging from sports, to arts and crafts and educational programs.